Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, Vol 3, No 1 (2009)

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Learning to ‘un-divide’ the world: The legacy of colonialism and education in the 21st century

Nora McQuaid


In this article I argue that the legacy of colonialism remains in the education system and discuss some of the implications for the future of an education that does not teach learners to ‘divide the world’. Learning about the connections between power, knowledge and language is central to a new pedagogy that helps us understand how the media and the school curriculum perpetuate the construction of ourselves as separate from and/or superior to others, which prevents us from recognising the foreign or the ‘other’ within ourselves. I start this article with a very brief outline of the work of Willinsky, Hannaford and Gilbert to formulate an argument in favour of the exposure of the colonial legacy of our current education system. In the second part I draw on my experience as a classroom teacher using Willinsky’s and others’ recommendations to discuss some of the implications of exploring this colonial legacy in formal educational contexts, and to make a few practical suggestions for practitioners.

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Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices is a non-commercial initiative committed to the ethical dissemination of academic research and educational thinking. CLTP acknowledges the thoughtful dedication of authors, editors and reviewers to develop and promote this open journal initiative. The journal receives copy-editing sponsorship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, Finland. CLTP has previously received  copy editing support from the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, UK.